Langer says Smith-led Aussies were 'spoilt brats'


SYDNEY — New coach Justin Langer says the Australian side was behaving like "spoilt brats" ahead of the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal and Steve Smith wasn't a strong enough leader to handle the situation.

Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were all suspended for their roles in the incident when sandpaper was used to rough up the ball during the third Test in South Africa in March.

"The whispers were there," Langer said of the team under former coach Darren Lehmann in a British Sky TV interview reported in Australian media Thursday.

"Once upon a time, the opposition didn't like us because we played really good, hard cricket — we were very skillful and we won a lot of games.

"It's easy to dislike the opposition if they're good, but there have been too many whispers in the last 12 months or so about the abuse on the field, or dare I say, the side playing like spoilt brats."

He said that as a former player he "nearly died" when he heard about the scandal.

"So you've got to wonder why it gets to that point? But it has happened now and we have got to make sure we learn from it and get better from it because we can't shy away either."

The scandal was preceded by several other unseemly incidents in the South African series: a stairwell clash between Warner and Quinton de Kock, and Nathan Lyon dropping the ball on a prone AB de Villiers after he was run out.

Asked about the difference between the aggressive side he once played in and Smith's team, Langer pointed the finger at the captaincy.

"I think Steve Smith maybe just wasn't strong enough in his leadership," he said.

"But he loves the game of cricket — he practices harder than anyone I've ever met — and he is a very, very nice young lad. There's no doubt about that."

Ponting wants 'big runs' from Australia batsmen

Australia batting great Ricky Ponting has said the top-order must deliver "big runs" after the world champion went 1-0 down in a One-Day International series away to England.

The 2019 World Cup host beat Australia by three wickets in the first of a five-match campaign at The Oval Wednesday.

Although England stuttered during their chase, Australia was always in trouble after being dismissed for just 214, with spin again proving its undoing as England specialist slow-bowlers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid accounted for five members of their top seven between them.

Glenn Maxwell (62) and Ashton Agar (40) tried to repair the damage but their sixth-wicket stand of 84 couldn't change the course of the game.

Ponting, one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, has joined the backroom staff of new Australia coach and former Test teammate Justin Langer for the tour.

Reflecting on Australia's slump to 90 for five Wednesday, Ponting said: "It highlighted again the importance of our top-order batsman taking responsibility and getting some big runs."

After the early loss of Travis Head, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh put on 40 for the second wicket only for both batsmen to be dismissed by Ali.

"We lost an early wicket but I thought Marsh and Finch's partnership looked really promising. But both of them getting out in successive overs to Moeen Ali, and all of a sudden we are behind the eight ball," explained Ponting.

"These players need to be hard on themselves and work out how they can improve on a daily basis," insisted Ponting, who made a brilliant 140 not out when Australia beat India in the 2003 World Cup final in Johannesburg.

Nevertheless, Ponting was confident of an improvement before the fifth ODI in Manchester on June 24.

"It didn't happen (Wednesday) but there is certainly enough skill and talent there to push on and win some games through the remainder of this series," he said. — Agencies